Abolitionists Still on the March

Couple feet of snow coming, and yet, the March for Life still goes on. Previous estimates are as high as 800,000 people, for the most part ignored by the news. 

After 43 years of legal abortion, we have lost between 50 and 58 million children. 58,000,000. And so, we march. And we are not discouraged.

On the contrary, the number of abortions done in the US has dropped every year since 1990. We see record low numbers today, as well as great changes in public opinion. 

Look up the case of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, one of the original founders of NARAL, who performed tens of thousands of abortions–then became an outspoken pro-life advocate after the development of ultrasound technology allowed him to see the child in the womb for the first time. Or Abby Johnson, Planned Parenthood clinic director who had a similar experience and is now a pro-life speaker and writer. Or more recently, Sara Winter, FEMEN leader and angry-topless-protest organizer turned pro-life. 

We have much reason to be encouraged. 43 years? So it takes time. The abolitionists faced worse. Still, slavery ended. The civil rights movement took longer. Still, segregation ended. 

One day, this protest will be obsolete as well. Until then, we march. 

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Syrian Refugees Are Not The Enemy

And keeping them out will not make us safer.

The GOP is wrong on this one. The president (and much of the left) is being his usual smug, patronizing self about it, but that’s nothing new. What’s new here is that he’s right on this and we need to be big enough to admit it.

This is not a time for fear-based populism. This is a time for American strength and courage. This is a time to recognize a risk, mitigate it, and then do the right damn thing anyway.

So far, to the best of our knowledge, all the identified Paris attackers have been EU nationals. Not refugees, but French and Belgian citizens. ISIS doesn’t need to sneak people in through a long, complicated vetting process. People that want to do harm have an easy enough time just looking like tourists. And, most importantly, let me repeat that most of the Paris attackers identified so far have been French citizens. The people planning attacks in the US are already here, and we can’t afford to pretend otherwise. That’s important. We know where the greatest danger lies, and focusing our energy and attention somewhere else is not only counterproductive, but it’s exactly what ISIS wants us to do.

It seems pretty likely that the Syrian passport found on one of the Paris attackers is a fake. But it gives us a great justification for cracking down on the refugees, doesn’t it? Isn’t it apparent that the terrorists are leading the West’s reaction exactly where they want it to go? Have we forgotten that that’s the purpose of terrorism? You don’t win a war by shooting civilians in a theater and a soccer field. But you can sure accomplish a lot if you can goad entire nations into acting the way you want them to.

There are literally millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. I’m not going to go in to the horrific conditions in Syria for the past few years, but it’s been described as the worst humanitarian crisis of our time, and a very small amount of research makes that an easy claim to believe. We have a moral obligation to help the people fleeing it.

Is there a risk? Yes. Of course there is! Acknowledging the danger of terrorists slipping in with the refugees is just plain common sense. There is nothing racist or Islamophobic to recognize that risk, and the people on the left pretending there is nothing but racism behind the hesitation are being just as ridiculous as Trump. There is a real danger. We must do whatever we can to minimize that. But that is not reason enough to refuse to do the right thing.

No, we don’t restrict refugee status to Christians. The Christians are not the only ones starving in camps and being murdered for not supporting one side or the other. We certainly don’t start closing mosques. What an irresponsible, outrageous statement.

So we do the right thing. We have the biggest house on the block and the kids from down the street need a place to stay tonight because their parents are beating each other up.

We protect ourselves as best we can, but we don’t let fear stop us from doing what’s right.

We don’t do it to make nice with ISIS so they like us, we do it because it’s right.

We don’t do it to keep the Syrians from becoming angry and radicalized, we do it because it’s right.

The danger exists no matter what we do. The danger is here already. Keeping refugees out will not prevent an attack. This is much more a question of moral imperative than national security. So we take courage, and we do what’s right. And whether an attack comes or it doesn’t, those fleeing totalitarianism around the world will know that America is either a safe haven of liberty, or she is not.

Republicans. We are better than this. We must do what’s right.

UPDATE:

Both sides need to stop the political BS here. The Republicans are supporting the wrong course of action, and that’s what I wanted to address. But as ridiculous as it is to make a demagogical, populist “Obama wants to let the bad guys in!” argument, it is equally ridiculous for President Obama to make a demagogical, populist “racist republicans are scared of widows and orphans!” argument. Pretending there is no risk is blind. But both sides are looking at millions of people forced from their homes by terrorists and thinking, “how can I use this to make people vote for me/my party?” America! We are better than this!

UPDATE:

Alex Nowrasteh at Cato agrees with me, and has put together a detailed overview of the process a refugee goes through and why it’s not a likely avenue for ne’er-do-wells to sneak in. It has math.

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Bill Nye completely misunderstands life

You might have seen this:

I have always had a certain amount of respect for Bill Nye in the past, even when I disagree with him. I just appreciate his calm, rational approach. This video disturbs that greatly, because it demonstrates a truly shocking level of irrationality and ignorance on the topic he’s arguing about. Let’s look at some of the claims he makes.

The first sentence in the video states that “many, many, many, many more eggs are fertilized than become humans,” but that after conception, the embryo must attach to the uterine wall (presumably, before it becomes human–though he leaves the statement unfinished).

Right off the bat, we run in to trouble. First off, Nye is equivocating on the word “human,” or else the statement is total nonsense. If you’re going to stand on science, then from a biological, scientific point of view, the zygote (newly fertilized egg) is a human at the moment of conception. Every egg that is fertilized is, at that moment, human. It’s not anything else. Conception is the textbook beginning of the human life cycle. Scientifically speaking, that’s the moment a new human comes into being. That’s just biology, baby. Or, baby biology, as the case may be.

So again, if Nye is resting his argument on science, he must not actually mean that a human embryo is not human. Rather, he’s playing a little loose with the technical meaning of the word–presumably when he says “human” here, he means something closer to “person” or implies “human-with-rights” or something along those lines. This is the only meaning I can find in this sentence without it being self-contradictory. But doing that means he’s not talking about science. Defining “personhood” or assigning rights to one or another class of humans isn’t a scientific question, it’s an ethical, philosophical one. So immediately, the idea that this is a scientific argument is missing its foundation. Let’s move on.

“If you’re going to say when an egg is fertilized it therefore has the same rights as an individual, then whom are you going to sue? Whom are you going to imprison? Every woman who’s had a fertilized egg pass through her? Every guy whose sperm has fertilized an egg and then it didn’t become a human?”

So, it gets worse. This is total nonsense no matter how you look at it. When a woman miscarries, the embryo dies of what we would call natural causes. So, while we have laws against killing adult humans (presumably for some kind of bible-thumping reason), we don’t sue or imprison people every time a person dies of natural causes. This statement implies to me that Nye has, possibly, never given even a moment’s serious thought to the issue he’s arguing.

Further, different individuals have different “rights” at times. Affirming that a baby is a human doesn’t mean treating it like an adult any more than affirming my two-year-old’s humanity means we have to let him vote.

In a statement directly to those in the pro-life movement, Nye then says you “literally don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ironically, it’s followed by this:

“You have a lot of men of European descent passing these extraordinary laws based on ignorance… Your interpretation of a book written five thousand years ago, fifty centuries ago, makes you think that when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse, they always have a baby, that’s wrong, and so to pass laws based on that belief is inconsistent with nature.”

This… I don’t even know where to begin with this. Nobody… ever… anywhere… has ever made anything resembling such a claim. For the record, nothing in the Bible implies anything like this. But also, for the record, I’ve been in a lot… a lot… of abortion debates, with a lot of different people, and I pretty much never, ever bring up the Bible. I knew to expect to disagree with Nye’s conclusions, but I never would have expected such a wild, irresponsible, and truly ignorant statement from him. I don’t even know where such a nonsensical claim comes from. If this kind of statement is why Bill Nye is pro-choice, his opinion is truly based in utter ignorance.

“You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes, if it weren’t for scientists, for medical researchers looking diligently….”

Jumping from this to “therefore abortion is okay” is the definition of non sequitur….

“I know people are now critical of the expression ‘fact-based,’ but what’s wrong with that?”

Finally, we have some pretentious looking down at anyone who would disagree. I’ve never actually heard anyone criticize facts either, for that matter, but this is the point of the video, of course- not to persuade someone who holds pro-life beliefs, but to tell those who are pro-choice that there’s no reason to ever bother seriously thinking about the question, because science. You can continue to look down on the pro-life movement because they are dumb because science and science-y words and bow ties so don’t think about it. This is what the video boils down to.

This video is four minutes and thirty-six seconds of awful logic and ludicrously nonsensical assertions coated in a pretense of science and delivered by a man whom you can trust because he put the word “Science” in his name. If you watched the video and thought Nye made great points, you are not paying attention.

I knew there must have been a reason I was always a Beakman kid.

UPDATE:

Trent Horn over at Strange Notions has a much more thorough response.

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A Christian, a Muslim, and Ben Carson walk into a bar…

Well, sometimes it all feels like a joke.

Dr. Carson stepped in it last week. From Huffington:

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

He said that Islam, as a religion, is incompatible with the Constitution.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

Commentary has followed two lines so far. One is just sort of flat out wrong. The other, I don’t know how to think about.

1. Everyone saying Ben Carson doesn’t understand the Constitution, doesn’t understand the Constitution.

I am actually surprised, in a disappointed way, that this comes up in every left-wing response. “The Constitution says there will be no religious test for public office!”

To those on the left, this apparently means that voters are legally required to ignore a candidate’s faith when deciding whether they support the candidate. I’ll remember that next time someone attacks a conservative for sounding too Christian.

In actuality, this simply means that the states can’t write a law saying “ONLY EPISCOPALIANS ALLOWED ON OUR BALLOTS”. But if Larry the Lutheran can’t abide voting for Episcopal Earl, that’s his vote and he can do with it what he wants. Individuals are still allowed their religious convictions and their own opinions in the US.

So, what Dr. Carson said was, at least, fully in line with the Constitution. He didn’t say a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to be President. He just said he wouldn’t personally support a Muslim candidate. He’s allowed that opinion.

2. Islam and the Constitution.

Here’s where I confess ignorance. Rather than knee-jerking out a response on either side–either cheering the courageous stand, or condemning the blatant bigotry–I want to actually consider the question. Is Islam incompatible with the Constitution? Let’s back up in his statement.

Carson, who placed third in the CNN/ORC poll of the Republican presidential field released Sunday, said a president’s faith would matter to him depending on what that faith is.

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” he said. “If it fits within the realm of America and is consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”

This, as a standard, ought to be uncontroversial. Someone’s faith is part of who they are. If a candidate’s religion dictates that he must act in a way that would violate his duties in office, Ima say maybe he shouldn’t hold that office. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kim Davis.

So where does Islam fit into this question?

I think it’s important to remember that we vote for individuals, not religions. That would have been a decent answer for Dr. Carson to give, by the way. What does this individual’s Muslim faith mean to him or her? Because, of course, ask ten experts on religion how Islam may or may not be compatible with the Constitution, and you’ll get ten contradictory answers. I imagine you could ask ten Muslim theologians and have the same result. Islam, like any major religion, has broken into denominations and factions, and different leaders seem to have different interpretations of some pretty significant points.

I’m sensitive to the idea that there is unfair mistrust and misunderstanding of Islam. I’m familiar with the phenomenon. Atheists accuse Christians of believing in a magic sky fairy and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping statues and think they’re stuck in the dark ages. Is the idea that Islamic sharia law would trump the Constitution for a Muslim President a similar mistake?

I honestly don’t know how to actually answer that. Many experts, including many Muslims, are of the opinion that the separation of Church and State doesn’t really fit within Islam. Many others disagree. In Muslim countries, wide majorities favor making sharia the law of the land. But then the people of Egypt–though 74% polled in favor of sharia at the above link–basically rioted to throw out Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after they started trying to implement sharia law. Given situations like that, I’m unwilling to accept a broad claim that authentic Islam automatically means taking the position that secular governments should be run according to sharia law.

I wouldn’t have said what Dr. Carson said. But whether or not the statement is justifiable depends on a greater understanding of Islam than I can claim, so it seems to remain an open question.

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Is it 2016 already?

Halloween displays are looking stale in the stores and Christmas decorations are already starting to appear. Time to decide who we’re going to vote for in November 2016 before it’s too late!

Having a couple of kids has made writing… and remaining fully informed… and, to be honest, caring about politics as much… more difficult. I’m planning to use this space to keep notes on my thoughts as they occur, and open them up for discussion.

First off, the driver of this clown car. I can’t. I just can’t. Donald Trump, really?

Polls show the top three GOP frontrunners are all three of the non-politicians in the race. Republicans nationwide have said, “Anyone, ANYONE but another politician!” Yesterday’s announcement by Speaker Boehner is encouraging to me. It implies that there is, maybe, finally, an awareness in the Republican party that GOP voters are fed up with the way Republican officials have behaved. Enough of politics as usual, right?

I get that. No more of this nonsense, let’s throw the bums out. Anyone but a politician. I’m sympathetic to that point of view.

But Trump!?

Here’s what I would #askTrump. If I hadn’t missed it. After two debates and a bunch of interviews, he’s made it clear that he isn’t deeply familiar with many of the potential issues facing our next President. His response has consistently been, I’ll be an expert by the time I sit in that chair, just you watch. And I’ll hire the best people.

Mr. Trump: would you, as a businessman, hire a CEO to run one of your companies, if the candidate demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the business and the industry, but insisted only that he’d become familiar after you agreed to give him the job? Would you be impressed by his confidence, or would you laugh at his arrogance as you show him the door?

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Why I’m Catholic

Hey, this is a political blog!

And, a defunct one, at that.

But over at the Anchoress, the formidable Elizabeth Scalia put forth the following, here and here:

Let’s do this! If you’re Catholic and have access to a web-page, a radio program, a Facebook page, whatever, take a few minutes, and tell the world why you are remaining a Catholic in an era where doing so seems not only counter-cultural, but also counter-intuitive and even, perhaps, a bit risky?

It stuck in my head. Because frankly, this is way more important than politics. And I’ve been wanting to write again anyway. So next time, politics. But right now, let’s talk about something bigger. This isn’t going to be my personal faith story, just the conclusions I reached.

Why am I Catholic? It’s simple, really. One reason. It takes many shapes and has infinite facets–that’s the beauty of it–but it’s one thing. It’s true. And I’m convinced of that.

Belief in God is reasonable. Why is there something rather than nothing? Something explains existence, or there is no logic to the universe. There is no philosophical ground on which nonexistence just becomes existence. If, on the other hand, there is something that contains within itself the reason for its existence–a more principled bit of logic–whatever that is, is God. So without yet worrying about the nature of God, the simple existence of a creator is just logic.

Next. What is this God like? Is God outside the universe? Is everything, this tree, that person, that galaxy, a manifestation of God? Is Nature God? Is God like the Force, impersonal, mindless energy?

The universe isn’t mindless. It stands to reason that if the universe is intelligible, it was created by intelligence. If reality is logical, and it is, then God must be logical.

Which brings us to Jesus. If God exists, and is a Person, then it makes sense that He would want us to know Him. This is a huge topic, and the details are beyond this post. For now, the point: the propositions that Jesus really is God, and lived in history, and rose from the dead, are utterly reasonable–and are far more likely than alternate explanations.

Finally, the Church. If Jesus is God, and came to reveal God to us, what do we do about it? Well, Jesus told us that too. He built a Church, and He gave that Church real authority and a promise of divine guidance. He said that He would remain with the Church forever. He also gave particular men the authority to forgive sins in His name, and told His followers that in order to have life, they need to eat His body and drink His blood. He didn’t write a book, but He did tell specific people to go and teach the whole world about Him, passing on the traditions they were given. Some of those people wrote down some of these traditions, which became the New Testament. But the Church today is the same Church that Christ founded 2,000 years ago upon the Apostles, headed by St. Peter, and nobody else can credibly make that claim. So while only Christianity makes sense of these questions of existence, only the Catholic Church makes sense of Christianity.

That’s it. God exists. Jesus really is God. He started a Church, which still exists today, and still speaks with His authority, which is the Roman Catholic Church.

I could talk about each of these points in detail for days. I could talk about how Catholic truth finally made sense of things in the world and in my life that never made sense. I could talk about the beauty of our Corpus Christi Mass yesterday and seeing the entire church with the servers and our priest kneeling as one before the monstrance, and hearing the choir sing a piece written in the 13th century for this very feast. I could talk about the universality of the Church, knowing that across the world, hundreds of millions of people were at the same celebration, receiving the same Eucharist. Or, I could talk about the universality of Catholic truth, the seamless garment that weaves together without contradiction the goodness of life, and love, and all of creation, as expressed in the Church’s teaching on God’s love, grace, and mercy; the Church’s embrace of science and philosophy; the Church’s embrace of every one of us, sinners all; the deep understanding of human nature and the difficult, but beautiful, teaching on everything from forgiveness to charity to human sexuality.

I could talk about how the Mass and the Sacraments have fundamentally changed my life and given me strength to fight some deeply destructive tendencies in myself. I could tell about how I tried to live a Christian life outside of the Church, without the Sacraments, and it simply did not work. Or that I came to believe that Jesus really was God, but I can honestly say that I did not come to know Him until I returned to Mass, and that I can not, really and truly can not imagine ever going through life without the Sacraments again. All of these things are good, true, and beautiful, but all rest on one very simple Truth.

That’s how truth often looks: simple, but deep. If you drop a bowling ball, it falls. That’s how gravity works. Simple. But start trying to understand and explain gravity, and you can end up talking about time travel and virtual particles, because this simple thing just goes so deep into all of reality. Theology is like that. Simple- God exists. He loves us. But that simple truth is the foundation on which all of reality rests.

That doesn’t make it easy. The Catholic faith is not for weenies, as various thinkers have pointed out. It’s not the path of least resistance, for certain. It is counter-cultural today, it’s heroic, it’s radical. But it’s true.

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This Might Be Why People Dislike Unions

I have been meaning to write on the topic of unions for some time.  I still don’t have all my thoughts lined up, but I just sort of love this story.  It’s a few days old now, but in case you missed it, from twitchy.com comes this union protest at a Subaru dealership in Wichita:

subaru 1

Followed by the dealership’s response:

subaru 2

Check out the original, linked above, for details. But what I want to ponder here (beyond this dealership’s pitch-Hipsters Local 312perfect reaction) is the nature of the union protest. The job went out for a competitive bid. The dealership gave the contract to the lowest qualified bid. Carpenters Local 201 lost. They simply lost the bid, that’s all. Someone else got the job. Let this be perfectly clear. The term “labor dispute” conjures up mental images of management breaking contracts, failing to pay agreed-upon wages, things like that. That is not what happened here. They simply put out a contract for bids, and hired the people they thought best, and those that didn’t get hired are responding by attempting to harm their business in revenge. In what context is this acceptable? Is this grade school? Are unions run by children?

When I graduated college, I applied for a slew of retail and service jobs. I got called by some, not by others. Would it have been reasonable for me to then blow up one of these rats in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble?

I imagine I would get arrested. Or sued. And I would deserve it.

I don’t necessarily have any sort of ideological or philosophical problem with private individuals unionizing. I do have a problem with individuals being coerced into joining a union against their will. And I do see major problems in the nature of a public sector union, as did progressive pro-labor pioneers such as Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia. These are topics I hope to look at in greater depth.

I definitely have a problem with bully tactics meant to intimidate. Can we at least all agree that blowing up a giant inflatable rat to scare off customers and intimidate employers–just because they hired someone else–is unacceptable? I’m always hearing about how bullying is bad. Let’s lead by example, ok?

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